Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Jeremy: Weighing in on Tice

Back in October Sid Hartman told us "...One of these days, the critics will discover that the Vikings don't have talent, and their record is not the coaches' fault." At that time I said that saying that our horrible season, to that point of the year, had nothing to do with coaching was crazy. I still believe that.
Now here we are 2 1/2 months later, the Vikes are 8-7 after losing two in a row. Prior to that they reeled off 6 wins in a row and looked like a playoff contender in the NFC. Today we know the truth: after this week's Bears game the Vikes will be golfing.
Now that we know the season is just a scant 4 quarters away from being finished, it's time for everyone to weigh in on Coach Tice. Why would I be any different?
At best the Vikings are going to finish 9-7. Speaking in numbers only, this would be an improvement over last year's 8-8 record. But the NFC is a different place than it was last year. Last year 8-8 got you into the playoffs, this year it would have taken at least two more wins. We didn't get 'em.
So how do you evaluate a coach? Does Mike Tice deserve some credit for rallying the troops to a 6-game winning streak? Certainly. Does Tice deserve some criticism for the 2-5 start? Yes. So I believe that we next have to look at who we played, and how we fared to get a look at our coach.
Let's have a look at who the Vikings beat this year.
Of the Vikings 8 wins:
-only one has come against a team with a winning record, the NY Giants.
-only one has come against a playoff bound team, also the Giants.
-three of the teams have only won 5 games this season, the Lions, the Browns and the Rams.
-the other two teams have won only 3 games each this season, the Packers and the Saints.
-they beat Detroit and Green Bay each twice.
-the combined record and winning percentage of the teams the Vikings have beat this season (remember, the Vikes have beaten GB and Detroit twice each, so their records are only accounted for once): 31-59, .344.
Not exactly what you'd call beating great competition. The seven teams the Vikings have lost to have a combined record of 66-39, winning percentage .629, and only one Baltimore) has a losing record.
One way you can look at this is that the Vikings beat the teams they were supposed to beat most of the time. The other way you can look at it is that they could never win the important games.
Here's how I prefer to look at it: the same way that The Common Man, Dan Cole, on KFAN, describes himself... The best of the lousiest, and the lousiest of the best.
This team is average at best. They achieved what they were supposed against bad competition, and they underachieved against good competition.
So where does this leave us with Mike Tice? It's hard to say, but I believe the best of the lousiest and the lousiest of the best statement rings pretty true for the coach as well.
Many people would say that Tice is starting to come into his own as a coach. After four years, he's figuring out his place, he's figuring out how to lead his players and his coaches. In short, he's finally figuring out how to be a head coach.
But let's not forget, without Red McCombs, a horrible, penny-pinching owner, Mike Tice would not be an NFL head coach. I guarantee you that if Red could have found someone who would coach this team for less money than Tice agreed to, he would have done it. The fact is that Tice probably never should have been where he is now in the first place. Tice got trial-by-fire, on-the-job training as a head coach in the NFL, something that very few other head coaches will ever get.
It's hard for me to form an opinion on Mike Tice. On the one hand, I like his honesty, I like the take-charge attitude that he's beginning to show, and I like his moxy. What I am not sure that I like are his in-game calls, the bad clock management, and the play-calling that sometimes seems like it came from the Denny Green era.
I think that usually when an owner looks at his head coach and is deciding whether or not to keep him, the question they ask themselves first is: can this guy still lead my team in the direction I want it to go? But in the case of Mike Tice, I think that Zygi Wilf needs to look outside the organization before looking at Mike Tice. The first question he might be asking himself is not in regards to Mike Tice, but about who else is out there. Is there someone outside of the organization that can lead my team in the direction I want it to go, and do it better than Mike Tice can? It might not be "this isn't the guy for the job anymore", it might be more of a "is there someone else better for the job" question now.
Basically, I think it's time for the Vikings, and Zygi, to look at all of the candidates for head coach that will be available. Certainly Mike Tice should be one of those candidates, but he should not be considered the lead candidate. At the end of the season, when all of the available coaches are put together and you then figuratively throw Mike Tice into that group, who will emerge as the best coach for the Vikings?
I believe that Zygi will wait to see who is available before he makes a decision about Tice. If, after all of the available coaches are out there, he decides Mike Tice is the best man to lead the team to the future, then he will make a commitment to Tice. But if there is someone else out there who is better for his team, I believe that the Zyg will pull the trigger and bring in a new coach.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Jeremy: Jeff had this to say...

After seeing the debacle against the Steelers last week, I emailed a question to Jeff. After watching the game last night against the Ravens the question seems as important as ever.

December 21, 2005
To: Jeffrick F. Chopin
Re: Help...
Dear Jeffrick,
As referenced in my last post, it has become painfully obvious, at
least to me, that the Vikings running game is severely inadequate to
compete with the better teams in the NFL. We need help.
Assuming a draft pick in the area of 10 to 16, an impact running back
through the draft is unlikely. We do not want Ontario Smith back (do
we?). Free agency is our best hope. Please formulate your opinion on
the likelihood of the Vikings landing one of the top free agent
running backs, or a second tier free agent running back. Should we
even bother hoping for this? Is Zygi the kind of owner who would make
a run at a premier free agent? Is there any hope?

This is why Jeff is amazing: In less than two hours I got an email back breaking down every aspect of the upcoming Vikings off-season:

Obviously running back isn't the only problem on offense, but we've got the talent in-house to improve everywhere else for 2006. The Daunte/BJ debate is just starting, but I think whichever guy is under center next year will be fine. The instability on the O-line has been the biggest problem, and getting Matt Birk back will do wonders to solidify it and stop the musical chairs approach we've seen this year (and getting a decent RT might not be a bad idea either). I think we've got plenty of capable guys at wideout, it's just a matter of Koren or Burleson stepping up to be the #1 guy, which I think both are capable of, and Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor finding some consistency, none of which seems all that outlandish to assume can happen (boy good thing we drafted Williamson, eh? That Moss trade was such a good idea).
We can finally call Michael Bennett a bust, and say with confidence both he and Moe Williams won't be back next year. That leaves us with three 4th round picks in Mewelde, Onterrio and Fason (who I have been thoroughly unimpressed with thus far), and if all we have are those three guys to start training camp with in August, I'm going to be very concerned. Yeah, we're both big Mewelde guys, but he's been injury-prone and attitude-prone, and as talented as he is, I don't think he has the potential to be anything more than a poor man's Brian Westbrook. Which is fine, but he's not the guy you want carrying the load. Potential and talent have never been questioned with Onterrio, but a guy who slipped to the 4th round because of pot, is given every opportunity in the world to succeed in Minnesota and STILL gets busted two more times with it, obviously doesn't get it and never will. It's not a matter of IF he'll get busted a third time, but when. Onterrio, you can a) be a Pro-Bowl player and make millions of dollars playing a game, or b) you can smoke dope and throw everything away. 99.9% of us take option a). Onterrio? When he's done hot-boxing the bathroom and munching on sour cream & onion chips he may get back to you with an answer. And Fason? Yeah nothing more than a 3rd stringer.
So that leaves us with the following:
Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James are the two big names, but neither will be available. The Colts will franchise Edge again this year, and I just don't see the Seahawks letting Alexander walk with all he's done this season. And even IF Shaun A is available, I'm not sure I"d want to give him the contract he'll want (I'll save my explanation for if he does become available). Thanks to www.theredzone.org (god forbid ESPN or NFL.com would list such a thing) I was able to peruse the potential free agent RB's for '06 and after the Big 2 it's pretty slim pickin's. Names that jump out are Ahman Green, DeShaun Foster, Jamal Lewis, Najeh Davenport, and Chester Taylor, none of whom get me very excited, unless you could get Lewis on the cheap.
Assuming the Vikes were to lose their last 2 games, and the Dolphins would win out, the Vikes could pick no higher than 15th. E!SPN draft guru Mel Kiper doesn't rank players until they declare for the draft, so he hasn't factored in Reggie Bush and a strong junior RB class yet. The only senior RB he has ranked in the 1st round is Memphis Sr. DeAngelo Williams, who will probably be a top 10 pick. Bush, his teammate Lendale White, and the U's Laurence Maroney are locks to declare, and if guys like Louisville Jr Michael Bush, and Scony's Brian Calhoun declare, there could be as many as 5 or 6 backs with 1st round grades. If you're the Vikes, and you're picking between 15-22, that means there's probably going to be a good RB available, and if Maroney, Williams, or White is there, I think you gotta take him. Or we could just take a back in the 4th round for the 4th year in a row.
The Daunte-for-Ricky rumor won't quiet down until Daunte has a new home, and this one certainly makes the most sense so far. Linnehan would love to get Daunte down there, and although Ricky would be a risk, he has more potential than anybody you could hope to get for Daunte from another team (also well worth the potential Onterrio/Ricky "Up In Smoke" tour around the league)
Personally, I'd look to the draft first, and if something doesn't work out there, then you look to free agency or trade. The Vikings never seem to make the conventional move, but I would hope running back will be a top priority in the offseason.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jeremy: Vikings quick thoughts

Yes, I know, I've been MIA for a little while here, I'm sorry, it's a busy time of year... LAY OFF ME, JEFF!!!
Okay, after watching the Vikings game on Sunday I've got some thoughts about the team that I'd like to out into the air...
*First, the defense gave another fine effort. It's hard to win football games when your offense only outscores the opponent's defense 3-2, and that's only if you call a field goal an offensive score. For our defense to give up only one touchdown and a total of 16 points to the Steelers is a nice effort. For our offense to score only 3 points (again, depending on your definition) and to give up two points on a safety is inexcusable. Is there still anyone out there who thinks that Brad Johnson is the reason for the 6 game winning streak?
*About Brad: a few weeks ago I said that the biggest difference between BJ and Daunte was that Johnson wasn't going to beat you by making mistakes. Well Sunday that theory went right out the window. Brad Johnson did on Sunday against the Steelers exactly what got Daunte into trouble during the first half of the season: when faced with playing from behind and leading an offense that was overmatched he tried to do too much. This is exactly the situation that we don't want to have Brad Johnson in. Brad is supposed to be the calm, cool and collected veteran leader that Daunte hasn't quite developed into yet. Brad Johnson does not have the physical skills to pull off the kind of plays he was trying to muster up on Sunday, and he doesn't have the physical stamina to withstand the onslaught of hits he was taking. Let's all hope the Brad Johnson we saw on Sunday is back on the shelf for the rest of the season.
*Now that I'm done bashing BJ... this isn't all his fault. The problem with the Vikings offense on Sunday was the same problem we've been seeing most of the season: lack of a consistent running game. The fact that Mike Tice is still rotating Bennett and Moore is beyond me. Look, it's well documented on this site by both Jeff and I that we are Mewelde Moore fans, but even if Mike Tice isn't, for the love of Ontario JUST PICK SOMEBODY. It may have been a moot point on Sunday because I don't know that we were going to be able to run up the middle OR outside against the Steelers, but being able to establish some kind of running game certainly would have helped, perhaps, neutralize some of the blitzing that we were facing.
*Looking forward, I agree with Jeff, it's probably a good idea that we draft a quarterback (By the way, I read this today on Pro Sports Daily: "There's talk in Minneapolis that Miami might discuss a trade with the Vikings about QB Daunte Culpepper, who likes Dolphins and ex-Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.") But in my opinion the most glaring deficiency on this offense is, again, the lack of a consistent running game. Look, the Vikings are going to be $22 million under the salary cap in the off-season. In my opinion very little of this money needs to be spent on defense. We absolutely MUST use this money to try to land a big-time running back. No more band-aids, no more fill-ins, no more rotation of mediocre backs. We need an every down, 20-carries/game but 35/game if you need it, carry-the-workload, big-time kind of back that is a threat both on the ground and receiving out of the backfield. There will be a few RB's available that could fit that roll, and we need to try to get in the sweepstakes for these guys and throw some serious dough at them. Edgerrin James and Shaun Alexander will be at the top of everyone's list, but Jamal Lewis wouldn't be a bad addition either. DeShaun Foster (although I'm not prepared to say that he could fill this roll) might be an option as well.
In any case, hopefully we will get to know what it feels like to have an owner who is willing to spend to fill an already partially-talented team with more talent. Zygi... COME ON!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Jeff: Swan Song

Before last night, I hadn't bought into the whole "ooooooh Favre could retire at any time" train of thought. THe guy was still playing relatively well, and he's probably the most competitive guy in the league. I figured he'd give it a few more seasons, and play until he really felt like he couldn't contribute. After seeing the worst loss in Monday Night Football history, and one of the worst in Packers history, that time may be now. I thankfully didn't have to sit through the game last night, but I imagine that even John Madden, who's love for Favre borders on Brokeback Mountain proportions, might have been running out of nice things to say about the guy. I don't hate Brett Favre, but I've always hated that he gets a free pass from the media because he's won one freakin Super Bowl, and "he just has so much fun playing the game!!" As he throws his third dumb interception of a game, the announcers are still fighting over who can say the most nice things about him. I appreciate the fact he's competitive and has fun, but since the Super Bowl loss to the Broncos in '97, he has not played well in each season-ending playoff game since.

Although the Pack admittedly rank higher than the Vikes on both offense (17th to 24th) and defense (8th to 24th), I still don't think the Pack are a playoff team next year. Would they be better served to build around Rogers and get younger, or to keep hanging on to try and make Favre happy? Yes, they've been decimated by injuries at the skill positions, and in this age of parody, you'd like to think Favre could will a healthy team to the playoffs. Problem is, he's gotten the Pack to the playoffs with worse supporting casts than this one when the conference was much more competitive. He's already set a career-high for interceptions, and still has two games to play. Although the arm is still there, his decision-making looks to be as bad as its been since his early years. I have wondered that because he's so competitve that, like Michael Jordan, he'd hang on too long, and would want to prove his critics wrong. However, Larry Bird was as fiery as MJ was, and Bird left the game and never came back. Yes, he's still around the game of basketball with his front office job with the Pacers, but like Favre, he wants no part of the spotlight. As much as Favre cares about the game and his image, it's obvious the media won't let this year tarnish his gaudy image, and they'd give him a eulogy fitting of one of the best of all-time.

The past few seasons I believe Favre's retirement talk has been to take the spotlight off of friend Mike Sherman's horrible performances, but after last night I think there's some real substance to the idea this really could be it for him. Cheeseheads, it's not so bad. Sure you're losing the guy you worship, but hey at least you'll get Reggie Bush or Matt Leinart...wait, no, no you won't. Ok so no Favre and no Reggie and no Leinart next year, but hey you've got Aaron Rogers...ok maybe you want to have a couple more cases of Old Milwaukee to take your minds off of things.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Jeff: The Monday Musings

Anyone seen Jer? Anyone?

- Ok, pile it on, I deserve it; I said last week that me talking about the Vikes/Steelers game and thinking that actually maybe, sorta, kinda, perhaps the Vikes might have a shot at beating Pittsburgh would jinx them. Who's to say if it did, but I know the Vikes played their worst game in two months, since they were blown out by Carolina. But still, if you feel better by blaming me, then do so. Merry Christmas (anyone offended by me using the word "Christmas", well too bad)

- I think we knew before the Pittsburgh game that the Vikes were not Super Bowl contenders, and that IF we snuck into the playoffs anything other than that would be gravy. Well nothing's changed for me after the loss. The most encouraging thing for me yesterday was how well the Vikes defense played. Allowing 18 points to a decent offense, especially with the Vikes offense doing everything possible to give the ball away everytime they got it, has to be a sign of hope for the rest of the year and next: ladies, and gentlemen, we finally have a defense.

- Brad Johnson was terrible yesterday, but as I said last week, if you're counting on him to win, you're in trouble. At this stage in his career, he's excellent in managing games and making good decisions, but when he's forced to do too much, the results aren't good. But really, considering how many injuries and how much chaos there's been on offense, I don't think we're that far away from getting back to being the Super Bowl contender we thought we'd be when the year started. Stop laughing, I'm serious.

- Minnesota HAS to draft a QB in April. Doesn't have to be with the #1 pick, but they need to take a kid they think has starting potential down the road. One of the many blunders the front office has made has been not bothering to develop a young QB in case Daunte got hurt.

- Speaking of #11, word in the Startrib today is that he desires to play in '06 for a team that "wants him". Let the record show I've always been a Daunte supporter, and never understood the criticism he received before this year, but I just don't see how he's going to be in a purple uniform next year (unless it's in Baltimore). The guy took a ton of heat when he was an MVP-level peformer, and after a bad year both on and off the field, especially considering how well the team's played in his absence, I just don't see how he comes back. With all of his physical gifts, and I could be completely wrong here, but he seems to be pretty sensitive, and I just wonder how effective he'll be. I don't think he'll ever approach the guy he was if he stays, and with the knee injury he suffered, I wonder if he'll ever be the same no matter where he plays. However, he's a hard worker, so it won't be from lack of effort.

- Yeah it's probably too early to speculate on Daunte's future, especially with the question of how much he'll even play in '06 still lingering. However, I've heard some ridiculous speculation of being able to trade Daunte in a package for a high draft pick: dream on, people. Even IF the guy was fully healthy, no NFL team is going to give up a 1st round pick for a guy with a $100 million contract who played as poorly as he did. There's just no way. Compound that with the fact the guy suffered a horrendous knee injury which, using examples of RB's Willis McGahee and Edgerin James, usually takes two full seasons for a player to approach 100%, I wonder how interested anybody would be in dealing for him. Zygy's on record as saying he wants Daunte on the roster for '06, but I wonder how plauisble it is to keep a guy with a huge contract like that who could miss the beginning of the year, and may not be back to starter-quality until '07. He's owed a ton of money, but from what I understand, the Vikes could cut him without receiving a huge cap penalty because of the contract structure. Somebody smarter than I will talk about this sometime in the offseason, but my point is that we're not trading Daunte for anything; if you don't want him in Minnesota for '06 you're getting nothing in return.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jeff: Vikes Need to Park The Bus

I was talking with Jer yesterday about the Vikes big tilt with Pittsburgh Sunday. Both of us, and we're probably not alone in Vikings Nation, have been treating this winning streak like a no-hitter in progress: don't talk to the pitcher, or in this case, don't get too excited or talk too much about it for fear of being the jinx. This Sunday's game is no different, but I guess I'll risk the jinx and discuss it a little bit. If the Vikes get blown out, hey at least you know who to blame. I said earlier in the year I thought Pittsburgh would be the best team in the NFC, and I still believe they'd beat Seattle (also the Seahawks have had as much bad luck as the Vikes over the years, so despite their gaudy record and Shaun Alexander rushing for 413 TD's, I still don't trust them), especially with how they looked last week in manhandling the Bears (am I alone in saying that even if the Bears somehow got homefield I STILL wouldn't pick them to represent the NFC? Maybe it's me). Still, and here's where I get really nervous saying this, I think the Vikes have a pretty good chance on Sunday. Like the Steelers did last week vs Da Bears, getting an early lead will be critical for whoever wins Sunday.

First look at the Steelers: Even if Big Ben's thumb was 100%, I still would rather force him to beat me than dealing with Fast Willie Parker and The Bus all afternoon. Look, I like Roethlisberger, but I still think he's overhyped. Pittsburgh has ran more in the last two seasons than any other team in football. I'm not saying Big Ben is a bad QB, but he's certainly not a game changer either. He's attempted more than 25 passes in a game this season 5 times, and the Steelers lost 3 of them. In the two wins he had a modest 225 yds and 1 TD against San Diego, and went for just 177 with 2 TD's and a pick in an ugly win over Baltimore.

For the Vikes during their 6 game win streak, they have not trailed by more than a field goal. As Ron Burgandy would say "I'm not even mad- that's AMAZING!" They never trailed Detroit or the Giants, and were down 14-7 to the Pack at half, but 13 whole 2nd half points were enough to win. They pounded Cleveland, at Detroit they were down 3-0 for a grand total of 47 seconds before taming the Lions, and never trailed in the win over St Louis last week. There's a lot of factors contributing to the win streak, but the fact Minnesota has not had to overcome a 2nd half deficit (in the Green Bay game, Koren Robinson returned the opening kickoff of the 2nd half to tie it and they would not trail again) cannot be overlooked. Brad Johnson has been very, well, Big Ben-like in his ability to do just enough to win here, and personally, I'd like to keep it that way. How confident are you in BJ rallying the Vikings down more than a TD? I do not want to have that confidence tested against a team like the Steelers. NOt only is their defense outstanding as usual, but with the Bus, Fast Willie, and the forgotten Duce Staley, there's not a better team in the league at sitting on a lead and killing the clock. The Vikings have been good, as well as fortunate, and to beat the Steelers, that trend needs to continue.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jeff: Just When I Think I'm Out...

...they pull me right back in! Yeah so just as I'm about as uninterested in the T-Wolves as can be, ESPN.com basketball stat guru John Hollinger threw out this suggestion today: Wally Szerbiak for Ron-Ron Artest. Ladies and gentlemen: commence drooling!!!! Oh my good lord would Ron-Ron not be exactly what this team needs?!? We would rid ourselves of the most overrated athlete in the history of Minnesota sports (although Torri Hunter's a close 2nd), and get a guy who's just dying to win. We would have 2 of the best defensive players in the league, and finally an alpha-dog predator-type to go with KG, the first since Marbury left last century. This trade makes so much sense there's no way it'll happen (ok ok obviously because Kevin McHale is involved, there's no way it's happening, but even if we DID have a competent GM, still no way it happens). Indiana needs an outside shooter, the Wolves need an all-star; BINGO! Both teams get what they want and need. The Pacers are on record today saying they will try to accomodate Artest's trade wish. Two things playing in the Wolves favor here:

1) if they KNOW Indiana wants/has to trade him, you're suddenly looking at giving up less than face value for the guy. Granted, there'll be plenty of suitors for Artest, as crazy as he is, but if the Wolves would offer a guy like Wally (Indiana would have to throw something in to make the salaries work-- yes, One-Dimension-Wally makes significantly more than Artest), but that still may be an offer tempting enough to get it done.

2) the fact Wally is actually looking motivated (this happens every year because, you know, nobody really plays much D in the regular season), AND the fact the Wolves didn't make the playoffs last year which would have reminded everyone how totally useless Wally is when it really matters, puts hope in my heart that this would actually happen.

There's no truth to rumor, but I'll feel free to start it: heck, if somebody knows where McHale's golfing today, and you think there's somebody with him who actually knows how to answer a cell phone, give him a call, just in case. WE WANT RON-RON! WE WANT RON-RON!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Jeremy: Just read it

I don't normally like to do the normal "blogger" thing and point the folks who read this blog to reading something else, but in this case, I'll make an exception.
Chuck Klosterman is a writer for Spin Magazine, he has written three books, two of which I have read (and I personally like his writing style better than anyone who I have ever read) and he is apparently (and this doesn't make sense, but it's the truth) writing once a month for Page 2 on ESPN.com.
Chuck also happens to be from my birth state of North Dakota, he loves music and he loves sports, particularly basketball.
In his latest (second) submission to Page 2 he compares Phil Jackson's career with Wilt Chamberlin's playing career, and it is very much worth reading. I recommend checking it out.
"The Definition of A Great Man" by Chuck Klosterman

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jeff: So Tell Me Hank

It's been quite an offseason in baseball so far, with some pretty hefty names, and even heftier contracts being thrown around. I'll spare you the whining about my Mariners for what they have and (mostly) haven't done. Hey at least the Seattle brass is willing to spend some money, so even if they spend it poorly, that's better than what Twins fans go through most offseasons. I've said it before, and I'll say it again for all to hear: Terry Ryan is every bit as good a GM as Billy Beane in Oakland. Every year, while other teams are building their teams by throwing around money like they're spending at a 5-star restaurant, Ryan is forced by Tightwad Carl to try and build a contender with food stamps. The Twinks were able to put together 3 straight Central division pennant winners on breadcrumbs, but last year proved even with somebody as talented as Ryan, you can only build on the cheap for so long before it catches up with you.

Now, the Twins can't spend lavishly like other franchises, which is fine because I believe you need to build through a strong farm system like they have, as have other franchises like Cleveland, Oakland, and Atlanta. However, if the Twinks want to compete with the Sox and Tribe this year, they NEED to add two big bats, and they're going to have to use some of those vast resources on the farm to get them (having said that they should not deal JOhan Jr, aka Francsico Liriano for anybody. Ryan has made it known he's untouchable, and I whole-heartedly agree. But I think he needs to listen to offers for anybody else). One of those guys I think you absolutely have to have is Texas Rangers 3B Hank Blalock. At just 26, in three full seasons in the majors, the guy has AVERAGED .274/.338 OBP/.471 SLG, 30 HR, and 103 RBI. I don't have to tell Twins fans that those averages are better than the best season for anybody else on the current roster. Third base is a premier power position, and you can count on one hand the number of stud 3B in the league right now (Chavez, Wright, Blalock, Rolen, Ensberg and...that's about it).

According to La Velle E. Neal of the Strib today, the Twins could get him wihtout giving up Liriano, which to me is a no-brainer. The prospects the Twinks would give up in the deal could turn out to be great, but that's an unknown. We KNOW Blalock will be a solid clean-up hitter for the next decade because he's proven it at the major league level. This is a deal the Twins have to make.

If they can get Blalock, then you look at Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas to fill the DH void. Both guys are future hall-of-famers that are shells of their former selves. However, especially Piazza, they could both add some pop to a Twins lineup that desparately needs it from the 5-spot in the order. Adding Blalock and another bat at DH would greatly improve the Twins batting lineup, and would take immense pressure off of 1B Justin Morneau. I think Morneau will be a good power hitter in the major leagues, but last year, asking a kid in his first full season to anchor an order with no other power source was too tall of a task. Getting two good hitters this offseason means you can bump Justin down to 6th or 7th in the lineup and let him adjust to major league pitching. You also would finally provide some protection for Mauer in the 3-spot, making him an even better hitter than he already is. With newly aquired 2B Luis Castillo (a good trade for the Twins, by the way), and Shannon Stewart getting on base at the top of the order, suddenly you'd have Mauer, Blalock, Piazza, Morneau, and Hunter coming up to drive them in. That's infinitely scarier for opposing pitchers than what the Twins sent to the plate last year.

I don't condone "selling the farm" to win now, but to get a guy like Blalock, who not only plays a premium power position, but provides it as well, would serve the Twins well this season and for many more to come. If Carl's not willing to open the purse strings this offseason, Minnesota will get left behind by the Sox and Tribe, and there'll be nothing that Terry Ryan, as talented he is, can do about it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Jeremy: A Proud Papa

I had thought I might write about fantasy football from time to time throughout the season. The problem with that little scenario is that my squad, even with Tomlinson, started out 0-7. That kind of start is certainly not conducive to making one feel like writing fantasy football.
I had felt pretty good about my team after the draft, I really thought I had a chance to compete. I had the best player in the league (Tomlinson), a top 3 wide receiver (Marvin Harrison) and a solid overall receiving core, and a top 4 quarterback (Trent Green). I felt good.
But the wheels fell off quickly.
At 0-4 I started to question my abilities as a fantasy football team owner.
At 0-5 I started to question if I would even bother playing fantasy football next year.
At 0-6 I started to question my manhood.
At 0-7 I gave up and I was convinced I might be the only person in history to go 0-13 on the season. I was giving thought to calling all of the players on my team and asking if we could put together a Vikings-style boat party for my fantasy squad, just so that I'd have something to talk about at the end of the season.
To add insult to injury, the Vikings were having a horrible season so I didn't even have anything to fall back on.
But suddenly, right around the time that the Vikings started their well-publicized turn-around, my fantasy team turned it around a bit too. After starting 0-7 I fired off two wins in a row. I still had a horrible record, and I still didn't feel good about my team, but at least my interest in my team was back.
After losing the next game my squad was able to eak out two more wins in a row. 4-8. After staring out 0-7 I felt good going into week 13. I was excited about the fact that I had a good chance at finishing up the season 5-1 in the final six games.
Unfortunately a tie-breaker in the last fantasy regular season game dropped me to 4-9 on the season. Pretty embarrassing.
Still, I have to say, I'm like a proud father today. My team showed grit, guts, and determination after a horrible start. The guys really showed a lot of heart.
I'm proud to say that the heart that my team showed has inspired me enough that I am not going to quit playing fantasy football. My already fragile ego has survived another hit.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Jeremy: A Happy Occasion

You knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time. I'd like to say congratulations to the happy couple...